The Third Third

Advertising Age(s)

You rarely see significantly older women gazing out at you from glossy, designer fashion spreads.  Rarely anyone older than, say, 23, or maybe 32, well, except in Eileen Fisher ads, when a bit of gray coif and someone approximating 40 poses to look stylishly timeless.  So it was stunning to see three ads featuring octogenarians in February’s latest style Bibles — The New York Times Women’s Fashion Magazine, the Wall Street Journal’s version of the same, and even Vogue.  I think it’s curious, actually, this choice to use considerably older women to sell the bling (a pendant from Celine, bracelets from Alexis Bittar, and purses from Dolce & Gabbana), even as the ad industry continues to ignore, even aggressively ignore,  our entire generation:  No one over 50; no one under 70.  It is almost impossible to find a freshly aging face. But they still want our money.  They’re still selling to women who by virtue of their tax bracket, maturity and the fact that their children are grown might now be able to afford to be tempted by trinkets and trends, no matter how ridiculous they would look wearing the recycling Bohemian garb, bell-bottom pants or skin-tight, well-slit skirts declared the season’s “must-have’s.”  So how does this work, exactly?  If we cannot relate to the reed-thin, breathlessly sexy supermodels, are we supposed to be better able to relate to these much older women with their certain je ne sais quoi style?  It’s hard to imagine this is an “I want what she has” moment if you’re still fighting to hold it together.  Or at least resisting the knee-high stockings. 

Luxury fashion advertising has always been necessarily aspirational;  the price tags alone seem to come from an alternate reality.  But are these advertisers suggesting we really want to grow old and look like this, the way anorexic models spawned generations of eating disordered girls?  Or are they suggesting this is, at best, our demographic’s destiny, and that we’d better buy their goods now, if we can,  to stave off the inevitable?  Like, wear the amulets and bangles as armor against the ravages of age.  That, I think, is ageist bullshit.  And it's offensive.

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